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Aamir Khan’s ‘Dangal’ had garnered  ₹1,200 crore in China
Aamir Khan’s ‘Dangal’ had garnered 1,200 crore in China

Bollywood may shun Chinese market for now

  • The massive screen count is an important factor for Indian films to have managed such impressive theatrical returns in China
  • Then there is difference in ticket rates - an average ticket price in China is $12 compared with India’s $1.5

NEW DELHI: In line with the growing anti-China sentiment, the Indian film industry is likely to shun the Chinese market, an emerging area for the movie business, for the time being.

“Anyway due to covid-19, all markets including China have come to standstill. So I don’t think any production house would think about releases till the situation improves but even then, we would have to look at the existing political situation and I do think producers will be compelled to stay away from releasing films in China," said a filmmaker, who has taken his films to the neighbouring country, on condition of anonymity.

Independent film distributor and exhibitor Akshaye Rathi added that China anyway didn’t allow more than three or four Indian films a year so it was, at best, a good add-on.

“We can always let it go," Rathi said.

The Bollywood success story in China began more than a decade ago with Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots that had made 16 crore. Khan followed it up with PK ( 123 crore), Dangal ( 1,200 crore) and Secret Superstar ( 700 crore). Other hits came with Irrfan Khan’s Hindi Medium ( 300 crore) and Ayushmann Khurrana’s Andhadhun ( 324 crore).

Industry experts said massive screen count is an important factor for Indian films to have managed such impressive theatrical returns in China. The country almost quadrupled its screen count in the last few years, from around 10,000. Then there is the difference in ticket rates. The average ticket price in China is $12 compared with India’s $1.5. But most importantly, Indian stories with their strong emotional chord have resonated with Chinese audiences, who are used to either Hollywood spectacles or Chinese mythologies and fantasies. Be it Salman Khan playing a golden-hearted young man taking a young child back home to Pakistan in Bajrangi Bhaijaan or Secret Superstar about a young aspiring female singer fighting a patriarchal system.

However, Indian films slowly seemed to be losing shine at the China box office, in the last couple of months. Akshay Kumar’s biographical drama Padman registered an unimpressive total of 25.54 crore, while comedy drama 102 Not Out had made 25.06 crore. India’s blockbuster war epic Baahubali 2: The Conclusion too had only managed about 80 crore.

While not on a par with traditional overseas markets such as the US, UK or West Asia, trade experts say China was an emerging territory for Bollywood, even though it worked with a quota of around 50 on film exports. However, the one big challenge remained that filmmakers would usually have to pre-sell their films to local distributors there and would barely receive 10-15% of the final profits, even though the films themselves made huge revenues.

“The government mandate, if there is one, will be of utmost importance. But even then, it’s not something that would make a huge difference," a trade analyst said on condition of anonymity pointing out that it’s not like the industry suffered huge losses after Pakistan banned the screening of Indian films post the Article 370 decision on Kashmir last year.

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